President Donald Trump’s budget proposal includes the elimination of all funding for the Special Olympics, and though the cuts are unlikely to become law, the administration has come under fire for its priorities, according to The Guardian.
The proposal for fiscal year 2020 would cut $17.6 billion from the Education Department’s budget that goes to the organization, which serves children and adults with disabilities, including its well-known Olympic-style athletic competitions.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared on Capitol Hill twice this week to defend the budget proposal, which found little support among Democratic lawmakers.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) inquired of DeVos if she personally approved the cut to Special Olympics, saying “someone has to accept responsibility” for the move.
The secretary said she had not personally made the decision and warned Durbin: “Let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative.”
During her Tuesday appearance before the subcommittee, DeVos was chastised by Senator Barbara Lee (D-CA) for cuts to the Special Olympics: “You have zeroed out Special Olympics once again. I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children. It’s appalling.”
DeVos responded to congressional and media criticism of the move in a statement on Wednesday, accusing them of “spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts”.
“The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100m every year,” she said. “But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”